Emboldened After Cantor, Tea Party Crows

RICHLAND, Miss. (AP) -

A conservative underdog’s swift dispatch of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia’s Republican primary is feeding tea party dreams in the 2014 midterm elections.

Conservative contenders across the country are looking at little-known candidate David Brat’s upset of Cantor Tuesday as a sign that tea party-backed contenders could shift the Republican party to the right. Establishment – minded Republicans were digging in and casting the next tea party threats as inadequately prepared for office. The next showdown is June 24 in Mississippi, where Sen. Thad Cochran and his allies are rumbling with state Sen. Chris McDaniel.

Democrats, meanwhile, are watching the GOP chaos with an eye toward whether the tea party might have outsized impact in the November elections, when control of the Senate is at stake.

Meanwhile, California Republican Kevin McCarthy quickly amassed support to become House majority leader on Thursday, but his likely ascent shut conservatives out of the chamber’s top leadership jobs, leaving them fuming and exposing deep fissures within the GOP.

Within 48 hours of Rep. Eric Cantor’s lightning primary-election downfall, McCarthy and his deputies aggressively rounded up votes with a pitch to Southern Republicans and pointed private conversations on the House floor in a race that occasionally had the markings of a personality-driven contest for class president.

Republicans sought to project an aura of unity but failed to quiet conservative complaints that such quick party elections after Cantor’s defeat gave them little time to rally around an alternative who better reflects the right’s ideology and the emboldened tea party. Votes are scheduled for next Thursday for majority leader, the No. 2 job behind Speaker John Boehner, and for majority whip, the No. 3 party post.